A half-dozen weekly newspaper chains in the Washington area, looking for strength in numbers, have formed a consortium to offer package deals to advertisers.

The Washington Community Newspaper Network, put together by a group of weeklies led by the Alexandria-based DCI Publishing Inc., the area's largest weekly newspaper publisher, will pitch to major advertisers a potential collective circulation of nearly 850,000, according to organizers.

The group's members hope the combined circulation will attract regional advertisers that otherwise do not purchase space in weekly newspapers, but instead largely do business with bigger dailies such as The Washington Post and the Springfield-based Times Journal Co. chain. Newspapers published by the group are predominantly distributed for free, which makes them less attractive to advertisers than paid-circulation publications.

"It's something that is difficult to put together because of all our different interests," said Chuck Lyons, DCI president and minority shareholder. "But if this works and we do it right, it will be our moment in the sun."

The venture, funded by DCI, will include companies with a presence in virtually every community in the Washington area, including Arundel Communications in Loudoun and Fauquier counties; Dear Communications in Arlington County; DCI in Fairfax County and Alexandria; the Bowie Register in Bowie; the Express Newspapers in Montgomery County; and the Northwest Current/Kensington Newspapers in the District.

All of the newspaper groups involved in the advertising venture will remain independent and will not share editorial resources, said Lyons.

The consortium, which will have a separate staff of four, will split the area by Zip codes and communities. Then, an advertiser can buy space in whatever combination of newspapers it chooses, said Lyons.

"We think we are offering a situation at good, competitive prices where an advertiser can reach anywhere in the suburbs it wants ... or it can blanket the area," he said, adding that such arrangements have succeeded in other markets nationwide.